"Don't wear that shirt," Mom told me the day of my driver's test. I looked down at my shirt. It was a nice t-shirt with a picture of Minnie Mouse on it. There wasn't anything wrong with it; in fact, it was one of my sister's nicest t-shirts before she decided to give it to me.
"What's wrong with it?" I asked Mom.
"You want to make a good first impression," Mom replied. "I guess there are grown-ups who like Minnie Mouse, but that's more of a kid's shirt."
So I changed my shirt, and I still failed. I wasn't good enough at parallel parking.
But first impressions are still important. In fact, a YouTube interview with a literary agent revealed that a good agent or editor can judge the quality of a novel just by reading the first eight lines.
I swear, literary agents have super powers. I read about 75 pages into a book once before I realized the main plot of the book was literally the protagonist deciding if she was going to keep a promise or not.
Anyway, when you're writing a book--or a short story, or even an essay--you need to make sure the "first" of everything is always awesome. The first chapter, the first page, the first paragraph. Even the first sentence is incredibly important. I mean, who wants to read this book after reading this opening line?
Everyone, that's who. (The book is apparently called Blood Rites by Jim Butcher, if you want to look into it.)
It's a good idea to start a book with action. Be that prose, like the above example, or a line of dialogue, as long as it's action, it's good.
I enjoy starting my books with a line of dialogue. It poses a lot of questions for the reader to answer. For example, in Where the Clouds Catch Fire's opening line of "Lynder, what are you lookin' at?", there are several questions. Who is the speaker? Who is Lynder? What is she looking at? And why does the speaker care? (You can find out under the "Read" tab above.)
But not all books are started with dialogue. Let's look at the first line of Blood Rites again. Who is the narrator? Why is the building on fire? Does our narrator have a habit of setting buildings on fire? Is the narrator in the building? Will he be safe if he is? What about the others in the building?
Dang, Jim Butcher knows what he's doing.
Let's look at my Wattpad work "Find Me" for another example of a book that begins with narrative: I always jump when I hear the bang of a White Man's lightning-stick, but today, I know that something is terribly wrong.
Who is the narrator? What is terribly wrong? How does the narrator know? What does she mean by "the bang of a White Man's lightning-stick"? We find out in the next few paragraphs:
I glance around my village. My people are being herded like buffalo, and the Blue Coats are the ones driving them. They have their horses and their lightning-sticks, barking orders and brandishing knives. A young brave runs for the woods, and he is shot. I shrink backwards.
"Nimaamaa!" I cry. My mother sees me and runs to me, holding my arms and staring into my eyes. I see that she is frightened, and it scares me.
"Listen to me, daughter," she says. "You must get out of here. You must run, and I will find you again."
So those are the first eight lines. What do you think so far? If you want to read more, you can by clicking here.
So what's your best opening line for a book or short story? I'd love to hear it in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to like us on Facebook!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.